I will be covering the progress of the Bears’ rookies again this year for BGO, so I might as well get started. The Bears have way more rookies on the roster right now than they will once the season starts so this will be considerably longer than my regular season Rookie Reports, but I think a few of the undrafted rookies have legit NFL talent and a real shot to make the squad so you might as well get to know these guys a little better. This is an almost foolishly positive report, but I went back and watched the game tape again just to make sure I wasn’t over-reacting Friday night (or drunk) and most of the rookies actually graded out better my second time through the tape.
This year’s rookie crop is considerably more talented than last year’s due to the fact that this year’s draft was one of the best in recent memory. When a guy with starter potential like LB Christian Jones doesn’t get drafted, you know it is an extremely deep draft. Due to the large number of rookies still in camp, I broke the post down into drafted rookies, priority undrafted free agents, and rookies who earned a training camp invite.
CB Kyle Fuller - I think Isaiah Frey can kiss his starting slot corner position good-bye. Fuller had a very impressive 1st game with a pass breakup and 3 tackles. My favorite play from Fuller was when LeSean McCoy tried to bounce a run outside and Fuller came up off the edge and knocked McCoy back a few yards. The Bears were a fundamentally bad tackling team last year and having a slot corner who can be physical against the run is going to help improve the run D. Fuller didn’t show any nerves out there in his first game; He played like an experienced vet who knew he belonged and I am excited about his potential.
DT Ego Ferguson – Reports from training camp that Ego keeps getting pancaked and jumping off-sides were troubling, but he held his own in his first NFL game. He was credited with 2 tackles, one of which was a nice solo stop near the line of scrimmage. Ego also did a nice job on one of the Eagles short TD runs. Ego took on two blockers and held his ground. Unfortunately he didn’t have much help and the Eagles scored anyway, but holding the point of attack vs the run is what they drafted Ego for and he proved that he had the strength to do it on a couple of occasions. Ego did have an illegal hands-to-the-face penalty, but overall I was impressed and I’m looking forward to seeing more.
DT Will Sutton – I watched Sutton a lot at ASU since I live a mile from the stadium so I’ve seen both the dominant Sutton from his junior year and the fat Sutton from his senior year. I can tell you with confidence that he is much closer to his junior form right now. Sutton generated some interior pressure Friday and was credited with a QB hit on a play that was really close to being a sack for a big loss. I was also impressed with his hustle, I saw Sutton pursuing two long runs, which speaks well for his conditioning. If Sutton can keep his weight close to where it is right now, I think he will make some impact plays for the Bears this season.
RB Ka’Deem Carey - His final numbers look pedestrian (10-23), but there was nowhere for Carey to run on Friday night. The O-line did a great job in pass pro, but got little to no push in the run game. Carey made something out of nothing on multiple occasions. His longest run of the night was a 9-yarder that got called back due to a hold. His most impressive run of the night was just a 4-yarder but he broke a tackle a few yards behind the line of scrimmage, showed a good enough burst to turn the corner and then dove for an extra 2 yards and a 1st down. Carey also had a nifty spin move in traffic on a 7-yard run late in the game. Bears fan are going to like this kid once they see what he can do with some blocking in front of him.
FS Brock Vereen - While Vereen didn’t have any “wow” plays, he played well enough that I think he took the lead in the battle for the starting free safety job. My biggest concern when the Bears drafted Vereen was his ability to tackle NFL players. Vereen was a strong safety in college, but he’s not a big guy (5’11, 199). I feel much more confident about Vereen’s ability to lay the wood on opposing wide receivers after Friday nights game. Vereen had 3 solid tackles, wrapping up the ball carrier with a textbook technique that I haven’t seen from a Bears safety since Mike Brown. In the passing game, Vereen was a step or two too slow to make any plays, but the fact that he was right there a foot or two from breaking up the pass is encouraging. Those are plays I think he will make once he gains some experience. It will be interesting to see what happens when Conte comes back this week, but for now that was a pretty good overall performance for his first NFL game.
QB David Fales - Threw a couple nice passes including a 41-yarder to Josh Bellamy and a bullet on 6-yard slant to Spurlock, but also threw an INT a couple plays later. By Fales next drive the Bears were in time killing mode and he only threw a few short passes in between hand-offs. Fales showed a better arm than I expected and the INT was a nice play by the rookie CB Jaylen Watkins.
P Pat O’Donnell - After all the “Mega-Punt” talk from training camp, I expected a little more from O’Donnell. Don’t get me wrong, he was decent. O’Donnell had excellent hang-time on his 2nd punt and just missed pinning the Eagles near the goal-line by a couple of yards but his first punt from deep in Bears territory only traveled 40 yards. The best punt of the day was a 60+ yarder from Tress Way that called back due to a penalty. I’d say the two punters were about even on Friday.
T Charles Leno – Due to his lack of prototypical LT height (6’4) I thought the Bears would move Leno inside but he was playing LT on Friday. He does have unusually long arms (34 3/8″) and played LT very well at Boise St in college so he has a chance. Leno is currently listed as the #2 LT on the Bears depth chart so they are clearly high on him and he played well enough Friday that his spot on the depth chart shouldn’t change. There wasn’t one play that stood out on Friday but he was part of the O-line on the Bears last drive that held the ball for 7:50 of almost all run plays.